Resumes are Not About Beating the ATS; They’re Still About Connecting With People
Alright. You’re a resume junkie.
You’ve read every blog about stuffing your resume with ATS-friendly keywords. You’ve paid for every service under the sun and gotten fifteen different scores on your current resume, all telling you to do something different.
Your resume is too long. It’s too short. Your relevant experience has too many bullet points or too few.
Have you tried adding a picture to stand out? Have you tried a fun graphic? Have you tried smashing your information into three columns to keep everything on one page?
Have you considered creating a word cloud of the most sought-after skills and jamming all of those words into your summary? How about —
Friend, your resume is important.
But it’s not a science fair project.
At the end of the day, your resume is still written by you for people.
Should you be mindful of the ATS overlords? Sure, but more importantly, you need to write your resume with a plan to present a person (you) to people (hiring managers).
This is that plan.
Use a good template and understand each section.
My go-to resume template is available on my website. It starts with your name, ends with your education, and contains a summary of your key accomplishments, professional experience, technical skills, and certifications.
It does NOT contain an objective statement or long, dense paragraphs.
Because you’re writing your resume for people, and the people who read your resume already know your objective and realistically don’t have time to read a novel in the middle of the hiring process.
Stick to bullet points where you can. Keep the information organized and relevant. Let’s look at this resume section-by-section.
Your Summary is what you’ve done, clear and concise, accompanied by years of experience.
“But what if I’m a Junior Developer?”
If you have six months of boot camp experience, This is the place for it. But critically, I need to know what you do immediately. I need to know you have 3 years of ReactJS, 2 years of Azure, 4 years of Java, and a BS in Computer Science.
Put that stuff at the top of your resume in the Summary.
This is where most of y’all mess up, to be totally frank.
Let’s start with the weight of your words. Literally.
Too many of y’all add too much bold text to your professional experience, and I’m sure it’s because bold = important.
Here’s the thing: too much bold distracts from the really important text. Use more discretion. Only use bold-weighted text on the company name, the position title, and the location of each job.
Immediately below the bold content, write a brief summary of what the company does (unless you work for a big company like Google or something). As a recruiter, I want to see what you’re doing company-wise so I get some understanding of the ecosystem you’ve worked in.
The next part is important and will set you apart if you do it correctly:
Most people don’t organize their work experience based on the projects they’ve worked on. If you want to “beat the ATS,” this is where you can have your cake and eat it too.
Most people write fifteen bullet points about their tasks and daily responsibilities at their company.
The problem is that tasks and responsibilities don’t tell a story.
The story is in your projects. More specifically, it’s in the project’s description, your responsibilities on the project, and the technologies you used.
Technical skills are incredibly important because they’re another way to get paired with the right people looking for you. Be specific about which technologies you’ve touched. Take a moment to inventory which platforms you’ve worked with, software, languages, relevant hardware, and other technologies.
Certificates and Education
I’m not a big certificate guy myself, but some people are. If you feel the need to include them: do. Use some discretion, though. Industry certifications like AWS and Azure hold more weight than the 12 dollar Udemy course certification you picked up last weekend.
Education is important, but not as important as you might think.
If you graduated from a prestigious engineering school or have your master's in Computer Science, you might consider moving your Education section closer to your Summary. Otherwise, it’s fine right here at the end.